Flakpanzer IV Mobelwagen - Tamiya's No.35101

When the German Army (Heeres) made their very thorough plans for the formation of panzer divisions in the 1930s, they overlooked to some extent the effect that air power would have on the ground fighting. The early campaign plans were effective because the German forces enjoyed air superiority and were taking the initiative with each successive operation in the 1939-41 period. In these early campaigns, such as the invasion of Poland in September 1939, and the France and Flanders operation of May-June 1940, the Germans themselves showed the world how tactical air power could be used to dominate the battlefield. Aircraft like the Junkers 87 (Stuka), the Junkers 88, and Me 109 were used to attack and disrupt enemy ground forces just ahead of the panzer divisions spearheading the assault. The success of such tactics were quickly noted by the Soviets, Americans and British, and as World War II progressed tactical ground attack aircraft, even more potent than those possessed by the Germans, came into service in increasing numbers on the Allied side. Such types as the IL-2 Sturmovik, the Typhoon, and the Thunderbolt became the scourge of the Wehrmacht and played a major part in facilitating the upstoppable Allied advance into Germany in 1944-45. At the crucial time of the fighting in the Normandy and Caen areas in June-July 1944, just after the D-Day landings, more German heavy tanks were knocked out by rocket-firing Typhoons and Thunderbolts than by Allied tanks and anti-tank guns. By this period of the war the Luftwaffe was being rapidly decimated on both Western and Eastern fronts, and the Allied aircrafts could roam the skies over Europe almost unmolested, picking out military targets at will. It was a critical time for the Wehrmacht and losses from air attack were colossal. There were plenty of anti-aircraft vehicles and weapons in service by any normal standard, but the Allied air onslaught was enormous.

Provision of anti-aircraft equipment had not been overlooked, even in pre-war days, but it came later than other equipment. When war broke out in 1939, the Germans has made some allowance for divisional AA defence, and light anti-aircraft platoons were organic within field divisions. For the most part, however, they were towed light pieces, though sufficient to deal with what air positions there was in the early campaigns. It soon became apparent, however, that anti-aircraft defence in the field was quite inadequate. To give more mobility and firepower, some self-propelled equipment was quickly developed. By 1940 a version of the medium half-track Sd.Kfz.10 was in service, Sd.Kfz.10/4 with the 2cm Flak 30 mounted in the rear compartment. In 1941 a version of the medium half-track, Sd.Kfz. 7/1, was entering service with the quadruple Flakvierling 38 mount fitted. These were just two of several quite effective items of self-propelled anti-aircraft equipment> Priority was initially given to furnishing assault guns and tank destroyers (panzerjaeger) to the aarmoured divisions and the development of full-track AA tanks did not take place until 1942-43, the first vehicles of this type entering service in 1943. This was the Flakpanzer 38(t) which consisted of a 2 cm Flak 38 mounted on the hull of the ex-Czeck PzKpfw 38(t) tank. This type was in short supply, however, and the field army asked for a more superior vehicle which could operate with the tank formations. In the Spring of 1943, a Flakpanzer IV was designed with twin 3.7cm AA guns in a protected mount. Hitler approved of the design, but the twin gun model was never actually built. Instead a somewhat simpler version of the Flakpanzer IV was produced which used existing gun mounts on a standard production PzKpfw IV hull. This type was known as the Flakpanzer IV Mobelwagen and BMM of Prague and Alkett built 211 of them on the chassis of the Panzer IV Ausf, H or J. The Mobelwagen was essentially a standard Panzer IV hull and chassis with hinged armoured flaps 10 mm thick. While these looked very useful, they were in practice almost valueless since the flaps had to be lowered flat to give a clear traverse for the armament and working space for the gun detachment. Thus, at the crucial moment of action the crew were quite unprotected. With the flaps raised, the vehicle had a prominent high silhoutte which made it hard to conceal. Because of the box-like shape, the name 'Moebelwagen' (furniture van) was most appropriate.

The Moebelwagen was produced with two different gun mounts. One version had the 2cm Flakvierling 38 (quadruple mount), while the other had a single 3.7cm Flak 43. The combat weight of both versions was 25 tons, but the version with the 2cm guns had a five man crew while the version with 3.7cm gun had a seven man crew. The latter version stowed 416 rounds, while the 2cm version carried its ammunition in the standard magazines supplied for the weapon. There was full traverse through 360 degrees in both versions. The Moebelwagen entered service in Autumn of 1943 and were used by the AA platoons of tnak regiments until the end of 1944. It was realised from the start that the Moebelwagen design was something of an expedient to get an AA tank into service as quickly as possible, and in December 1943 a replacement design was possible, and in December 1943 a replacement design was approved, the Wirbelwind, which had a fully traversing armoured shield forming an open turret integral with the 2cm Flakvierling mount. Apart from the fact that the engine was slightly uprated (from 2600 rpm to 2800 rpm/272 HP) the Moebelwagen was technically and dimensionally similar to the PzKpfw IV Ausf. H/J, though the overall height was increased to 310cm.